The Bookless Library

They are, in their very different ways, monuments of American civilization. The first is a building: a grand, beautiful Beaux-Arts structure of marble and stone occupying two blocks’ worth of Fifth Avenue in midtown Manhattan. The second is a delicate concoction of metal, plastic, and glass, just four and a half inches long, barely a third of an inch thick, and weighing five ounces. The first is the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, the main branch of the New York Public Library (NYPL). The second is an iPhone. Yet despite their obvious differences, for many people today they serve the same purpose: to read books. And in a development that even just thirty years ago would have seemed like the most absurd science fiction, there are now far more books available, far more quickly, on the iPhone than in the New York Public Library.

It has been clear for some time now that this development would pose one of the greatest challenges that modern libraries—from institutions like the NYPL on down—have ever encountered. Put bluntly, one of their core functions now faces the prospect of obsolescence. What role will libraries have when patrons no longer need to go to them to consult or to borrow books?


Less than twenty years ago Nicholson Baker could lament, in an eloquent New Yorker article, the disappearance of physical card catalogues from libraries. (Among other things, he criticized electronic catalogues for their “neolithic screen displays and excruciatingly slow retrieval times,” as if the technology would never improve.) But how many readers are still troubled, in any serious way, by the disappearance of those old catalogues? (Recently the Yale University library unceremoniously junked its old card catalogue drawers, filling a large dumpster with them.)


The Passive Voice Blog

Our school library does not have a card catalogue.

Kindle Anomaly

Well, really an Amazon anomaly. I went to look at a recommended author and got excited when I found one of her books on sale for $6!

Except the $6 was for the “bargain price paperback”! The Kindle edition was $9.99! sigh. When they are cleaning out the overstock, Kindle users don’t get a deal.

I didn’t buy the book since I wasn’t that interested in a Civil War steampunk novel.

A Kindle Cover

I have been hesitant to take my Kindle “on the road” for fear it will get damaged. But no more; my new Kindle cover came today. And I got a good deal on it. This particular model was 1/4 the cost of the others. You can see why.

One reviewer actually waxed eloquent over the color! But apparently they aren’t selling. Lol.

It came with this foam insert to keep it stiff during shipment in a padded envelope.

It is designed well and none of the buttons or plugs are inaccessible.

I think this is the start of a beautiful friendship.

Kindle Books

I just downloaded some books into my Kindle. And it is all John Scalzi’s fault! I was checking out his recommendation of Stephen Boyett’s new novel, Mortality Bridge. That one went on my wish list (because Stephen, or his publisher, doesn’t have Kindle versions). Then I ended up in the Kindle store!

I bought four new books! But actually paid money for only one! While Amazon is good at making recommendations, somehow the free books don’t show up on that list! So I now have Stretch (a Harlequin novel), Red Coyote Weekend (a mystery), CRY UNCLE (a probably pitiful mystery/romance), and Mama Does Time (a mystery in the style of Carl Hiaasen). The last one was the paid for one with great recommendations.

Earlier I had “bought” The Prince by Machiavelli (in English). The free list changes constantly since it is a “top 100” list.

Another discovery: Kindles only read PDF imports as I have mentioned. It will not read any text documents. 😦 Amazon knew what it was doing!

Kindle Update

I have read more books since I got this gadget than in the previous several weeks! It is easy to read on; I had to force myself to finish Fuzzy Nation in hardbound.

But I have found one problem. While it easily accepts PDFs, those cannot be resized to fit the screen and be read comfortably. With books, enlarging text causes it to wrap but with a PDF, it is fixed at whatever size it was created.